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Beckman ready to take reins

Published: Monday, August 31, 2009

Updated: Monday, August 31, 2009 03:08

First-year head coach Tim Beckman surveys the field as his team practices on Friday. Beckman will le

Joseph Herr / IC

First-year head coach Tim Beckman surveys the field as his team practices on Friday. Beckman will lead the Rockets into their first game of the season when Toledo travels to West Lafayette, Ind. to face Big-Ten foe Purdue on Sept. 5 in their season opener.

After three straight losing seasons under Tom Amstutz, the University of Toledo football program felt like they needed a change. Through an emphasis on hard work, academics and discipline, change is exactly what first-year head coach Tim Beckman has brought to the school.

"I think there is a greater commitment on the part of our players to do what it takes to become champions," Beckman said. "I think there is a greater commitment to the program, to doing the right things in the classroom, in the weight room, in the community and on the field. We've tried to do some things to help our players improve in all of those areas."

Beckman, the 25th head coach in UT's 88-year history, has stressed competition since joining the Rockets. No exceptions exist on this roster, as Beckman even had senior wide receiver Stephen Williams, who has a chance to become Toledo's career record holder in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season, run with the second-team offense at one point during training camp.

"That's the way it's going to be," Beckman said. "They're going to be evaluated every practice and the guys that are going to play are the ones that are the most consistent."

So far freshmen Eric Page and Jermaine Robinson have shown that consistency, being rewarded with the top spots on the depth chart at both the slot receiver and free safety position, respectively.

The Rockets' new coach has even brought change in more unconventional ways, as he has utilized the popular social networking Web sites Twitter and Facebook to communicate with the Toledo faithful. Beckman even launched his own website, CoachBeckman.com, just over a week ago.

All of this is in effort to put Toledo back on the map in the Mid-American Conference, where the Rockets can contend for a championship on a yearly basis.

"It's all about the future," Beckman said. "It's all about what we can do to build a legacy here."

While the Rockets' opening schedule will surely make building that legacy difficult this season, there's no denying the opportunity to make a statement as Toledo opens the season at Purdue, before hosting Colorado and Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State.

"The schedule is very demanding, no doubt," Beckman said. "On the plus side, I'm somewhat familiar with the first three schools on our schedule. It's going to be tough, but it's an exciting schedule."

Beckman gained his experience when he served as the cornerbacks coach at Ohio State from 2005-06, where his squad played both Colorado and Purdue. However, with respect to both those programs, it's the Ohio State game that is circled on many calendars throughout Ohio. It's not often that a MAC school hosts a team of Ohio State's caliber, and that fact is not lost on Beckman.

"This is a huge opportunity for the University of Toledo," Beckman said. "To play Ohio State as the home team in Cleveland Browns Stadium, I don't think you can overstate the importance of that game. A lot of our guys grew up in Ohio. This game will be huge for them, to get a chance to play in an NFL stadium against one of the best college football programs in the country."

To make that statement, the Rockets must improve on a team that posted a disappointing 3-9 record and struggled on both sides of the ball in 2008, ranking 11th in the MAC in scoring offense (22.42 ppg) and 10th in scoring defense (31.42 ppg).

"The players and coaches have worked extremely hard," Beckman said. "Now we are looking forward to the start of the season on Sept. 5 at Purdue. I couldn't be more excited."

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